13-fold increase in rough sleepers since 2010
Since 2010 homelessness among households in England has increased by a massive 54%, cuts to council budgets, a decrease in the number of council staff and changes to how benefits are paid out has seen huge numbers of people pushed into destitution. The problem in Manchester is especially pronounced with the city seeing a 13-fold increase in rough sleepers since 2010.
In terms of the city centre alone you cannot go a day without being approached by people asking for change. It is not an unusual sight to see sleeping bags and tents set up across the city centre. These are just the obvious signs of homelessness, the council estimates that around 30 households each week are placed into some form of emergency accommodation.
Of course, with homelessness comes other associated problems, the use of cheap drugs and alcohol have fuelled the problem with those who don’t have hope in the beginning spiralling further into hopelessness. Naturally those without addresses or bank accounts cannot get a job and without support are unlikely to get themselves into a more positive situation.
It is expected that the problem in Manchester is set to get even worse as the role out of Universal Credit picks up the pace over the next few years. There is around a 5 weeks delay for people to be transferred from the old benefits system onto the new system with people forced to choose paying their rent or choosing whether to eat. Many people who are forced onto the new system will be forced into rent arrears and will see their situations get even worse.
The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that Manchester has seen zero ‘affordable’ homes built, it was reported in the Guardian in March of this year that of 15,000 homes built over the last 2 years not a single one met the Government criteria of affordable housing. With rents going up across the city and a generation of people expected to be renting all their lives is it any surprise that more people are finding themselves in horrendous situations?
Manchester Council is expected to receive £25 million over the next 3 years in order to tackle the problem but councils up and down the country have lost billions in funding. It appears that chronic underfunding that has been forced on councils through austerity measures are coming to a head and it is the opinion of this writer that the Government will need to take a different approach in order to avoid a continued crisis of its own making.
Opinions expressed in this piece are that of the writer alone and do not represent Canal Street as a whole.
By Daniel Smith